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Monday, Dec. 31, 2001
When I was in the sixth grade, we were privy to a teacher fresh out of grad school who knew everything.

Which is to say, she knew nothing at all but was willing to prove the laws of nature wrong by bucking strongly against them in an attempt to make early 70’s children into something they weren’t quite ready to be. Contrary to popular opinion at the time, the sixth graders of Mill Middle School weren’t all so eager to dash off to Woodstock and indulge in a group-wide cannabis orgy.

But she did have her taste in music, she did.

One of which was the Beatles (together! All living!) Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album and the other Carole King’s Tapestry. Which, happily, were released at very close proximity to each other. And with the aid of a school donated / purloined record player (songs were recorded on vinyl at that point, my children) she played them in endless loop, at every available lunch hour and learning opportunity where Carole King could be juxtaposed with Balboa and the Pacific quest thing.

So we wound up with…….

Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time,
there’s something wrong here there can be no denying
One of us is changing
or maybe we just stopped trying….

…a world that was not prepared for the 30 of us in that classroom. Sixth graders who were already prepared for divorce, for lost loves and things failed and the heartbreak that relationships can bring.

…And it’s too late baby now, it’s too late
though we really did try to make it
something inside has died and I just can’t hide and I just can’t fake it…oh no…….

Around about the same time, or maybe a lifetime later, I was in the woods with a group of the sort of compatriots that you never forget. Camping. Hunting, after a fashion, since none of us really knew what we would do with a freshly killed warm deer or game bird or squirrel. It was winter, in Western New York, and the snow thick on the ground with the sort of silence that only footsteps on crunchy snow can bring an end to.

……It used to be so easy living here with you
you were light and breezy and I knew just what to do
Now, you look so unhappy and I feel like a fool….

I don’t know if I knew then exactly how life would turn out for me but I had a pretty good idea. If you’re a follower of predestination then you can perhaps relate to the concept of marriage within your race, children to follow, money to burgeon the entire affair and happily ever after angels dancing ‘twixt your ever enshrined earlobes.

>…Now it’s too late baby, now, it’s too late
though we really did try to make it
something inside has died and I just can’t hide and I just can’t fake it…oh no…….

I mention the snow covered Western New York thing because at one point Bob and I were walking through an absolute cathedral of pine trees, he with an Ithaca 12 gauge in search of pheasant and I with nothing but a vision of glory for where I was. It was 20 degrees outside and the air crackled with the new scent of life and there was game bird abounding in there. We walked nearly silent between a row of trees, looking at gray sky above and a waning day without much to bolster our hunger for the moment.

…There’ll be good times again for me and you
but we just can’t stay together don’t you feel it too
still, I’m glad for what we had
and how I once loved you…

Bob pulled up of an instant, looked with the wisdom of a fifteen-year-old who had a large shotgun on hand and declared there was no game to be found hereabouts.

And with that, I stepped on a pheasant cold with dread and the wind of an upstate New York winter and felt it whirl up my back with the sudden deafening flutter that only a pheasant in that situation can make.

I dropped to the snow covered ground anticipating a shot from Bob, who had watched the launch of the game bird with much intensity. A shot never came. He looked, as did I, for the flight of the bird over a cut cornfield, in the gloom of a 5 pm cloud cover with a threatening snowfall.

…But it’s too late baby now, it’s too late
though we really did try to make it
something inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it…oh no, no, no…….

I’m not sure why we don’t take the chances afforded to us, why the pain and ecstasy of living so often avoids the grasping we make such efforts to perform well.

But it does.

It sounds vaguely like Carole King. And cornfields. Why sixth grade doesn’t get you to this point of learning is not of this world, or any other.

It’s too late, baby. It’s too late, now, darling. It’s too late.

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